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The Mental Load of Christmas

Alan Riley

As the mommy of my family, I am responsible for a lot of things in my household.  Like most mommies I carry the mental load of my family which seems to significantly increase during the holiday season.  As a mommy, I have to think about which gifts to buy for our family, about how to lay out the Christmas decor inside and outside of our house; in addition, I also think about the Christmas outfits to wear for pictures with Santa, as well think about organizing babysitting for holiday work parties that my husband and I attend.  Not only do I have to think about these things, but I then have to follow through on all of them and make sure that they all happen.  Being a mommy during the holiday season can be so exhausting and we are often so tired that additional traditions seem like just one more thing we have to  think about and do.    

As a young child, though, I did not experience many Christmas traditions with my family.  When I became mommy, it was therefore, extra important to me to ensure that my children did not go without wonderful memories of Christmas.   Thus, as a new mommy I remember putting a lot of pressure on myself to ensure that the holiday season was filled with memories of traditions that my children would never forget.  I agree with all of you, that carrying the extra mental load of the Christmas season is completely overwhelming and even burdensome, but I want to do so for my children.  As a new mommy though I did not know what traditions to start with my children, and I had to do some research to discover what others did.  Through my research I became inspired to start my own.  I share the traditions of my family, in hopes that you will also be inspired for your own family.

  • Make your own ornament:  This is our newest tradition, but it is really easy and fun.  Before the holiday season I usually surf pinterest and try to find hand-made ornaments that are easy to make.   Before thanksgiving my three little ones make their own ornaments; this gives time for the ornaments to dry, if needed, before hanging on our tree that goes up right after Thanksgiving.  My kids love this, as it usually involves a lot of paint, glue, and glitter!  If you want to make this an extra special tradition for you and your partner, then when the kids go to bed make a personal ornament with your significant other.  In the process, pull out a bottle of wine and just enjoy some time with one another.

  • Personal ornament tree: Our personal ornament tree is dedicated to nothing but personal ornaments from our family.  This started when my husband and I got married, and received our first personal ornament from my mother-in-law.  The ornament marked the year we got married with a cute carticture of him and I.  I loved this idea so much that I bought an ornament for the year we met and got engaged.  Our tree now has ornaments that are dedicated to the birth of each of our children, as well as family pictures and ornaments we make as a family.  

  • A special event tradition: Every year we attend a local Christmas lights event in our city.  There is a neighborhood in our city where every house is decorated with Christmas lights.  Each year, my family and I walk the neighborhood and enjoy the lights together.  This is a tradition that we truly can carry on while into their teenage years.  The hope is that they will enjoy it just as much with us when they are older.

These are just three of my favorite traditions with my family, but here a couple more that I hope will also inspire you:

  • Donate to a child in need: Get involved with a charity that gives donations to children ages 0-17 years, and take your children to the store to pick out a gift for a child in need. When the gift is chosen take it to the donation center with your children.  This will provide them with an opportunity to understand the importance of giving back to the community.  

  • Make a snack for Santa: The night before Christmas play and sing Christmas songs while making a special snack for Santa.  Lay the snack on a special handmade Christmas plate that you use every year.

  • Bake for your neighbors:  Once your neighbors have put up Christmas lights, take your kids on a stroll around the neighborhood.  Ask your kids to choose the house with the best lights.  Once you all come to a consensus about the best Christmas lights, go home, bake some cookies and leave them for your neighbor on their doorstep with a special holiday note.  

  • Christmas Eve Box:  Parents fill a box with special holiday pajamas, a toy, an ornament to hang on the tree, something to read or watch, and a holiday treat.  The box is the only gift opened on Christmas eve allowing parents some quality time with their little ones by reading a book or watching a movie while eating a special treat and lounging around in their pajamas.  

The holiday season is filled with so many things to think about and do that we can often forget about creating special memories with our little ones, but don’t forget that we only have so much time with them before they grow into adulthood.  So slow down and just enjoy it all!  Here’s to creating happy memories and traditions with the special little persons in our lives and easing the mental load of the holidays!


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